Frontperson - Frontrunner - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Frontperson - Frontrunner

by Mark Moody Rating:7 Release Date:2018-09-21
Frontperson - Frontrunner
Frontperson - Frontrunner

Fellow Canadians Kathryn Calder (The New Pornographers) and Mark Andrew Hamilton (aka Woodpigeon) have teamed up on the debut release of their project Frontperson.  The name of the duo is a bit interchangeable with the album’s title, Frontrunner, but with Calder on board there is no confusion that vocals par excellence are essentially a given.  She effortlessly delivers on that front.  Not being familiar with Hamilton’s prior work, he lends a more mellow conservatory air to the proceedings than Calder’s usual power pop surroundings.  As invigorating as it is to hear Calder mixing it up with the others in her core band on tracks like ‘Brill Bruisers’ and ‘Juke’, here she shows she can soothe as well as she excites. 

The closest Frontperson comes to full fledged pop is on the vocal interchange of lead single ‘Tick Tock (Frontrunner)’ that simmers but keeps its cadence in check as precisely as its title.  More representative of their sound though are tracks like the mournfully beautiful opener ‘U.O.I.’ where Calder and Hamilton are pillowed in by the lush performance of their five piece ensemble which includes Clea Foofat on cello and Foon Yap on violin. 

Aside from those tracks where their vocals are intertwined, most of the album has Calder or Hamilton taking the vocal lead.  Calder’s tracks benefit from a crystalline clarity full of coos, swoops and feather light harmonies.  You would be hard pressed to pick a favorite between ‘Long Night’, the inversely titled ‘Shorter Days’, or ‘Young Love’.  The jaunty pop of ‘Young Love’ benefits from Calder’s vocals peaking and fading, while the simplicity of ‘Shorter Days’ is summed up in its quiet lyric of “snowflakes fall, snowflakes melt”.

Hamilton’s best solo turn is on ‘Postcards from a Posh Man’ which is much less unwieldy than its title.  It’s his least complex composition here and benefits from his most earnest vocal as it glides along.  The denser and lengthy ‘He Follows Me’ along with the clangor of ‘This City Is Mine’ just aren’t as interesting, particularly the latter track which is jarring compared to the rest of the album. 

Most of all, Frontrunner, serves as a quieter stop in the wilderness to witness Calder’s immaculate voice outside of the rush of The New Pornographers or Immaculate Machine.  Hamilton’s more insular approach compared to those bands helps make this moment in time one to cherish no matter how fleeting.  Released on Calder’s own Oscar St. Records label, having another vehicle to deliver her work is something to celebrate.

 

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